Your Gifts Are a Blessing in Sierra Leone

This week has been filled with many demonstrations of God’s love and yours for the people here in Freetown. Over the past two days, we’ve visited the three Presbyterian (PCSL) church-run schools, as well as an orphanage co-founded and run by one of the elders from 1st Church. In addition we considered the biblical role of women in the church through both Tom’s teaching on the subject, and an excellent devotional given during our gospel-communication lab by a woman who is actively ministering to women in a local prison, as well as in her church. During Tom’s teaching, I had the opportunity to bring up the 11 women in attendance and give them each a card and poster from the women at Calvary. These gifts were well received, and representatives from each of the five churches of the presbytery took an equal share of the remaining notes and posters to distribute in their local congregations.  

Your generous love for your brothers and sisters over 4,000 miles away has been experienced in beautiful ways over the past few days, as I’ve been able to hand out many of the gifts that you sent to bless the people here. Here is a list of how those gifts have been a blessing thus far:


Just over a week before I flew out of Raleigh, I shared a specific need for a phone for one of the ministry leaders in the area, whose current phone is cracked, making his used of it difficult. On Sunday evening, Elder John MaCauley, who leads at the church in the fishing village of Goderich, took public transportation to meet with us at our hotel. During that time, I was able, through your generosity, to present him with a good used phone that will serve him and his church well  Here is a video of John’s expression of gratitude to you at Calvary.

Notes from the Women at Calvary

In addition to the women of the local churches, I was able to share a few of your notes with two members of the cleaning staff at our hotel, as well as a couple of the teachers at Goderich School, a ministry of Elder John’s church. They were each thrilled to receive notes from a sister in Christ from America.

School Supplies and Soccer Balls

As I visited each school – Peace, 1st Presbyterian, and Goderich – I was able to present their respective headmasters with a bag filled with pencils, crayons, erasers, a children’s Easter book, and a soccer ball. As you might imagine, the soccer ball, or football as they call it, was a massive hit with the children. When the children of Goderich saw the soccer ball, their eyes lit up, and with permission from their teacher, they immediately ran to play. One of the classes at 1st Presbyterian School spontaneously broke out in cheering and sincere expressions of gratitude. Here is a video of me presenting your gifts to the headmaster of Goderich School. Here, also is a video of the children of Goderich joyfully playing with their new soccer ball.

I still have toys to share with each of the five churches, as well as books and resources that I pray will be a tool in the Lord’s had for making disciples and the furthering of His Kingdom in Sierra Leone. In addition, I a plan to share your video greetings soon. In a future e-mail, I will share more with you about the story of the orphanage we visited today, in addition to a few photos.

Thank you again for your open-handed generosity. I am especially grateful for your prayers. Here are a few ways you can pray in the next couple of days:

  • Pray for our Thursday evening teaching session, as I will teach on Worship in the Local Church. Pray the Lord will use it to build up these dear congregations, as they seek to glorify Him.
  • Pray for “M”, one of the hotel staff. He asked Tom and I if we had any theological resources for him, which we did, and he is eager to reach and talk with us about Christian doctrine.
  • Pray for gospel conversations, not only with church leaders and members, but also with hotel staff and guests. The Lord has provided several opportunities so far, and we are eager to share the good news of Jesus wherever the Spirit is at work.

I’ve attached a few photos for your enjoyment: 1) Tom and I on the hotel terrace; 2) presenting the women with notes from Calvary; 3) a note being handed to a woman from PCSL; 4) girls of Goderich School enjoying the gift of soccer; 5) a classroom at Goderich School.

Lord Bless you all, and I look forward to sharing more with you in the coming days.

In Christ,
Pastor Nate

Weekend Recap from Sierra Leone

Tom Cox and I are greatly enjoying the fellowship we have in Christ, as we partner together in this work.  Here is a recap of some of the ministry opportunities of this past weekend.

Saturday, February 10

We gathered for our third teaching session on the doctrine of the church. I taught through the various Biblical images God has given to illustrate both the nature and the purpose of His church in the world.  We specifically focused on the church as the body of Christ with Christ as the head, the church as the temple of God with Christ as cornerstone, and the church as the family of God with Christ as our elder brother. The approximately 25 church leaders and members who attended engaged deeply in our discussion and are demonstrating that they are making connections to their own local context.

Following the teaching, we participated in an important afternoon meeting between representatives of the Presbyterian Church of Sierra Leone (PCSL) and Jim Weaver, the chairman of our denomination’s work in West Africa (W.A.R.M). He joined us by Zoom to share exciting news about potential additional ministry partners, who may be considered for a future in-country partnership with the churches here. If the Lord leads in this direction, this would be a huge answer to prayer, as well as an enhancement of the work of raising leaders of which Tom and I have been part. Please pray with us that the Lord would continue to raise up workers for the harvest.

Sunday, February 11

On Sunday, Tom and I attended separate churches, at the request of the elders, so that each of us could observe and encourage one of the men in training, as they proclaimed God’s Word to their people. Because our role is to come alongside the churches in raising up leaders and pastors from among their own people, we believe it is vital that we have the opportunity to observe their preaching in their own context. Each man preached from a text that we assigned that connects to teaching we are doing during the weekdays. I was greatly encouraged to worship with the congregation at First Presbyterian Church in Freetown, and hear one of their elders faithfully proclaim the gospel from 1 Timothy 3:15-17.  

In addition, the Lord gave me two opportunities to exercise the biblical exhortation to be ready “in season and out of season.”  

#1 – I noticed my name was listed in the bulletin as leading a blessing over the children of the congregation. I asked what that meant, and learned they wanted me to pray a blessing over the next generation, which I was delighted to do, using Jesus’ words from Luke 18:15-17 to inform the basis of my prayer.

#2 – Following the worship service, one elder, named Alfred, informed me that we would be visiting the home of a woman whose husband recently died, while he was in Atlanta. When we arrived, I saw many of the young people from the church, gathered on the front porch of her home, and when we went inside, many of the members of the congregation were gathered in the living room. I was asked to sit in a chair in the middle of the room next to Alfred, and he informed me he would like me to speak words of comfort for about 5 minutes. I prayed silently that the Lord would lead me, and I turned to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. I acknowledged to Sara, the young widow, that though I do not know her, she is my sister in Christ, and though I have no wisdom in and of myself, I bring God’s Word of comfort in the face of grief. I was deeply touched by the expressions of love from this congregation, showing up together both in times of joy and times of sorrow.

We’ve had several other ministry opportunities, as the Lord has led us to conversations with people of various backgrounds, not only in the church but also in at the hotel.  In my next update, I will share a little about how the Lord is at work and how he is using your gifts of kindness to bless people with whom we come in contact.

Here are a few prayer points for today:

Please pray for each night’s teaching session.  I will be doing the teaching on church leadership tonight, and one of the students will be giving a short sermon for our sermon lab.

Please pray for a young man who is part of the hotel cleaning crew. He is a Muslim with whom we were able to share the gospel today, after he found and read a book on the Lord’s Supper that I left out on the desk in our room.

Please pray for the young woman who suddenly lost her husband in Atlanta. She is planning to go for the funeral in the next couple of weeks, and I have offered to help connect her to folks from our denomination, if that’s of help to her and her family.

Photos below, left to right are: 1) Tom and I with church leaders from the PCSL; 2) a selfie photo with the class, used as a illustration of “pictures” the Lord gives of his church; 3) student, Sorie, with his daughter Samara, whose naming ceremony we attended last March, just after she was born.

In Christ,
Pastor Nate

Update from Sierra Leone

As you have likely heard, Tom Cox and I arrived in Sierra Leone around 7pm local time (2pm EST) on Wednesday evening, after a largely uneventful journey that began at RDU airport 25 hours prior. We enjoyed the new modernized airport in Freetown, before taking the bus to the ferry.

While we waited an hour at the ferry terminal, we met a young woman from Greece named Iro, who was traveling by herself on business, seeking to increase energy access for Sierra Leone, which, we learned, has one of the lowest rates of energy access in the world. It was a reminder to us of the many gifts we take for granted, and the ways the Lord is working through means of His common grace to care for His world.

Once we exited the ferry, we reunited with our friends, Elder Osse and Elder Lati, for who we prayed when he had a motorcycle accident sometime in 2023. They kindly provided a ride for Iro to her hotel, so she would not have to travel alone in the city.

Thursday was a day of recovery from our travel. We spent most of the day at the hotel, getting reacquainted with hotel staff that we had the privilege of getting to know a year ago. I shared with Tom, how encouraging it is to me to be able to be in a familiar place with people with whom we had previously begun building relationships, not only in the church but in the community. In many ways we have been able to pick up where we left off, particularly with a young Christian man named Ephraim, whose love for Jesus is evident, as he serves hotel guests.

Our evening was spent with 24 men and women from multiple churches of the Presbyterian Convention of Sierra Leone, as we began the first of eight teaching sessions on the doctrine of the church (at left). Many of the students who were with us over Zoom in the fall participated, and are are seeking credit as part of training to be pastors and ministry leaders in the church. Lati preached a short sermon on Matthew 16:13-20, as part of our preaching labs designed to help train men to handle rightly the Word of truth (below.)

Last night at dinner, we met a guest named Peter, who is from the provinces of Sierra Leone. He overheard our conversation and asked if he could ask us questions about the Bible. He was deeply troubled that his wife had been chided by the pastor in her home church for wearing pants to a worship service. He asked us to help explain, Biblically, how to understand this. In much of West Africa, pastors are revered as having high authority, and this often leads to misuse of that position and confusion among the people. We explained to him the freedom we have in Christ, sharing several verses, including Galatians 5:1. When we saw him again this morning, he expressed appreciation and shared that his wife was encouraged by the Scriptures we shared. This was a reminder to us of the necessity of sound doctrine and the contrast of the gospel’s beauty with the ugliness of the shackles of legalism.

We covet your prayers during our time here, and I look forward to sharing the many gifts and notes you sent with me, as you partner with us this work. Visit for more information.

In Christ,
Pastor Nate

Opening Day and the Long Season of Life

Opening Day and the Long Season of Life

Baseball Opening day.  Few phrases produce in my heart a greater sense of longing, anticipation and excitement. 

In early spring 2001, I was a young, soon-to-be college graduate, embarking on my first career, as a play-by-play broadcaster in Minor League Baseball.  For me, opening day represented the culmination, not only of a long winter of moving; settling into a new community; learning a new job; and making new friends, but of a many years of working toward a moment I never thought would come.  Yet, on that cool spring evening in Macon, GA, with my stomach twisted in knots and a future Major League superstar on the mound, opening day finally came. 

But the truth about baseball opening day, with all its pageantry and excitement, is that it gives way to a long season, marked by hot days, long nights, unexpected thunderstorms, and hours of unnoticed, unseen work.  Periodically a walk-off homerun, a no-hitter, or a stadium packed with thousands of fans eagerly looking forward to the post-game fireworks breaks through as a reminder – this is really great!

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Standing at the Crossroads of Life’s Transitions

Standing at the Crossroads of Life’s Transitions

It was 2am.  After hours of packing and cleaning, my wife and I sat alone on the floor of our oldest daughter’s nursery, exhausted from a long day, preceded by an even longer week, and something happened that had rarely occurred in our 4-year old marriage – I began to weep.  As I sat in the house we planned and had built, the room we lovingly painted and furnished just over a year prior and considered all that had occurred in three years in our West Virginia home, the excitement of a move to St. Louis was overshadowed by the strange grief of change.  What had at one time been only an unknown future hope was now a package of past memories tenuously stored in our minds and hearts, as we set off on our next adventure.

Three states and six homes later, I’m increasingly aware of the simultaneous grief and joy that lie in the crossroads of life’s many transitions. 

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In Appreciation For Faithful Men…

In Appreciation For Faithful Men who Entrusted to Me What they Had Been Taught

This morning I was looking through a few old pictures on Facebook.  It’s funny what one will find in looking back.  Old memories flood my mind like a tidal wave, reminding me of long-forgotten joys, oft-remembered pain and much appreciated people whose presence in my life have left an indelible mark.

One particular photo has elicited in me a spirit of incalculable gratitude.  In this picture, taken the occasion of my ordination to pastoral ministry over 7 years ago, I’m surrounded by three pastors – faithful men who took particular interest in passing to me what they had learned through years of following Jesus and serving his church.

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What Time is It?

What Time Is It?

“Daddy, what time is it?”  With little concept of the reality of time, my youngest daughter asks this question on many nights.  “It’s 9pm” is the equivalent to “it’s 7pm” to her.  It’s simply an answer from her daddy in which a meaningless number is attached.  But when I say, “It’s bedtime,” she knows it’s time to spring into action – brush teeth, get dressed, read a book, sing songs, say prayers, and go to sleep.  Without my specific reminder of just what time it is, I don’t know if my youngest child would ever go to sleep.

I wonder how many people walk around with no idea of just what time it is.  Oh, we know the time on our smartphone and the date on our Google calendar, but do we really know what time it is, and does it spring us into action?

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Presence is Better than Presents

Presence is Better than Presents

“Did you get the presents for my birthday yet?”  Even before, “Hello” or “Good Morning,” this is the question with which my youngest child greeted me moments after springing from her bed earlier this week.  Never missing an opportunity to meet audacious questions with silly answers, my response was, “You always have my presence!”  “Dad!” she replied in confused tone, “You know what I mean!”  After a few minutes of circular exchange, I said simply, “Sweetheart, presence is always better than presents.” 

For the record, of course we got presents for our child’s birthday, but as I’ve reflected on this playful conversation this week, I’m struck by how often I have the heart of a soon-to-be six-year-old child, as I think about and communicate with God in prayer. 

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Warm Welcome for Wary People

Warm Welcome for Wary People

“Welcome!”  This is the greeting we received today, as we walked our youngest child into her kindergarten classroom to meet her teacher for the first time.  As we looked around the room at parents and children, we were impressed by the warm welcome given to wary students, as they entered this strange room ready to embark on the beginning of many years of first days of school.  From the name tags on the tables, to the personalized cubbies, to the packets left for each child, everything in the classroom communicated, “Welcome!  We’ve been expecting you, and we’re glad you’re here.”  By the time we left, our daughter felt so comfortable and welcomed, she gave her teacher a giant hug, joyfully declaring, “See you Tuesday!”

All of us know the feeling of walking into unfamiliar territory for the first time.  Whether it’s a new classroom, job, city or neighborhood, we have all experienced the wary feeling of being a stranger, wondering if we will be accepted, welcomed and embraced.  This is especially true in the local church, where relationships among members are tight and where the language and culture may be unfamiliar.  This is why those who belong to a church must make intentional steps to communicate, “Welcome! We’ve been expecting you, and we’re glad you’re here.”  But where does this begin?

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5 years – 5 Prayers of Thanksgiving for Calvary PCA

5 Years – 5 Prayers of Thanksgiving for Calvary PCA

When I first stepped into the pulpit at Calvary five-years ago this week, I could not possibly have imagined the joys, sorrows, challenges and triumphs that lie ahead.

I could not have known that my family would live in three homes, that one of my children would be enrolled in three schools in as many years, or the extent to which we would be loved by a congregation seeking and praying for God’s renewing grace in their midst.  I could not have known the names or faces that would come and go, making an indelible mark on our family and church by bringing joy through friendship and sorrow through loss.  I could not have known who would make a midnight phone call, seeking comfort in the midst of crisis, or who would pull me aside after church to express their delight at the news of a new job, new life, new relationship, or new opportunity.

I knew that pastoral ministry was a beautiful, difficult calling, but the details of what we would face together in the coming years were a mystery, just as what lies ahead for us in the future is unknown to all but God.

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